"This is the Great Pumpkin calling. Where in the world ARE you?" I was overjoyed to hear that familiar voice on my phone in the rehab center where I had been stuck for weeks last winter. An unexpected injury had suddenly sent me to this place and I was without cell phone, computer or list of friends' contact information. The monthly Zoom call with my four high school friends far away had come and gone but I had been unable to contact any of them to tell them what had happened. My local friends didn't know them. Since I couldn't answer calls or emails they would wonder where I was. At last, one of them tracked me down through family and here she was on my rehab phone, the Great Pumpkin.
Her real name is Holly, and we became best friends in fourth grade. She lived six blocks from my house in our quiet tree-lined neighborhood, so over the years we would call out "meet you halfway!" on the phone and start walking towards each other. Sometimes we went to her house, sometimes mine, sitting in our rooms to talk over boys, parents, school, boys.
We were opposites in many ways, especially in our homes. Her father was a gruff neurosurgeon, former football captain and manly man, who was the only male in a house of three loud outspoken daughters and a feisty red-haired Irish wife. Their house was full of noise and laughter, and I loved it.
My house was very different. My parents and siblings each went their own way. We were busy with our own projects, and were only together for a quiet dinner. But my mother adored Holly, and if she answered the phone when Holly called, Holly would announce that it was the Great Pumpkin calling, and so she remained to my family.
I was the quiet one who loved sewing and reading for hours, while Holly would say "c'mon, it'll be fun!" when she had an idea. I would then cautiously join her on bike rides, high school flirtations with cute boys and cruising around in our mothers' cars looking for friends. It was always fun. We spent a high school summer working at a mountain fishing resort for millionaires near Aspen where we learned how to serve pie and clean a trout. Still fun.
She went to a different large university than I did, and at graduation she married the president of the senior class who was also an All-American football player and Rhodes scholar. How, I wondered, was I supposed to match that? She quickly had two children. I, the domestic one, instead found myself living in New York and then Chicago, building a career, traveling Europe and living a city life I had never imagined as a child. Holly's voice in my mind urged me to push myself because "c'mon, it'll be fun!" and it usually was.
Throughout the sixty-plus years of our friendship we have compared the similar paths our lives have taken, always understanding each other without having to say the words. I came to motherhood late; she is about to become a great grandmother while I hope for at least one grandchild someday. She lives on the other side of the country. Yet each time we talk it is as though we had chatted the day before. She still makes me laugh as no one else can. So when I heard her voice on the phone in my lonely rehab room, it was as though the sun had finally come out. The Great Pumpkin had found me.
Peggy Keonjian is a member of the Jottings Group of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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